4. You still need the vaccine even if you’ve already gotten the flu this year
Remember the business about there being many strains of flu? “You can get flu A in December and flu B in March,” says Dr. Trachtenberg. Just because you’ve gotten sick and developed antibodies for one strain doesn’t mean you’ll be protected against the others.
5. Flu is not just dangerous for the elderly
Sure, you know the flu can be deadly, but isn’t that just a risk if you’re old? It turns out pregnant women and small children, especially those under 6 months old, are also at increased risk. “Pregnant women are a lot more at risk because pregnancy takes a toll on your respiratory system,” says Siobhan Dolan, M.D., an OB-GYN at Montefiore Medical Center in New York, medical advisor to the March of Dimes, and author of Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby. “You’re more likely to be hospitalized with flu.” This, along with studies that show the fetus is passed some immunity, is why the flu shot is recommended for pregnant women by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Small children, especially those under 6 months for whom immunization is not recommended, are also at a higher risk, because their immune systems are still developing.
6. Cold weather does not cause the flu
Your mom was wrong—you don’t get sick from going outside without a hat. However, there’s no denying that winter is flu season. Why? “Researchers have found that the virus survives best in low humidity, and relative humidity is lower in the winter than in the summer,” says Myatt. “Also, indoor spaces have less humidity, so you have more of a chance of contracting the flu when you spend more time inside.” To cut down the chances of your family getting the flu, it’s smart to add a humidifier to your home, along with insisting on frequent hand-washing.
7. Stomach flu is not flu
The term “stomach flu” is a misnomer. The influenza virus is different from the kind that causes a stomach bug like rotavirus. However, the common flu can mimic a stomach bug by causing nausea in kids, says Dr. Trachtenberg. And unfortunately, the flu shot does not provide any protection against one of these puke-fests.